Top-seeded, playoff-bound teams clash in regular season high school basketball
The Calgary senior boys high school basketball regular season reached a climax Feb. 23 as the two remaining undefeated teams squared off to determine Division 1 supremacy.
The Bishop O'Byrne Bobcats defeated defending champion Bishop Grandin Ghosts in front of a full house by a score of 71-57 in what many are calling the most exciting game of the year.
Bobcats head coach Kurt Luttmerding described the matchup as their most important of the season, and used it as a motivational tool for his players all season long.
"Whenever the guys got lazy in practice we would say, 'Bishop Grandin is not practicing like this. What do you think Bishop Grandin is doing right now?'" Luttmerding said.
The Bobcats' players clearly bought in.
Through sound fundamentals and an obvious size advantage, O'Byrne was able to dominate the paint against their division rivals, holding Grandin to their lowest point total of the year.
Bobcats starting point guard Derek Kroetsch played a crucial role in the win, performing proficiently at both ends of the court.
"It was our biggest regular season game and to win it is a big confidence builder, especially with playoffs right around the corner," Kroetsch said.
With the win over Grandin, the Bobcats now have a chance at the first undefeated season in Division 1 since Sir Winston Churchill accomplished the feat in 2007. The opportunity is not something Kroetsch and his crew are taking lightly.
"Being undefeated gives us the first overall seed, so we'd have home court advantage throughout the playoffs," Kroetsch said. "We haven't lost a game at home this season and I would love to see a team come in here and give us a good show."
Bishop Grandin came the closest of any team this season to stealing a win on the Bobcats' home court. The Ghosts launched a fierce comeback in the second quarter to bring the score to within five points.
O'Byrne, however, came out in the third quarter firing on all cylinders and quickly extinguished any hopes of a Grandin recovery.
Forward Garret Ladell led the Bobcats' defensive charge, locking down the perimeter and forcing the Ghosts players to take difficult outside shots.
"I think our team is a second-half team," Ladell said. "It really helped our team to go into the second half with that urge to fight back. It felt really good to come back and finish strong."
The Division 1 high school basketball playoffs begin March 6. Players from both Bishop O'Byrne and Bishop Grandin have expressed their desire for a rematch. If the regular season is any indication of what's to come, it may very well be in the finals on March 10.
- By DANIEL BALL